Arsene Wenger believes fans protesting during Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Norwich on Saturday were venting out of “disappointed love” rather than anger at the club’s lack of progress.
A small minority of Arsenal fans held up posters reading ‘Time for change’ and ‘Arsenal is stale – fresh approach is needed’ in the 12th minute at the Emirates Stadium, to signify 12 years since the team last won the title.
The dissent soon fell flat, however, as their objections were drowned out by a resounding chant of “there’s only one Arsene Wenger” ringing around the ground.
The Frenchman acknowledged his supporters and it was then his substitution that changed the game as Danny Welbeck replaced Alex Iwobi in the second half before driving Arsenal into the lead three minutes later.
The victory leaves Arsenal nine points behind Leicester, having played a game more, but with their title hopes extinguished Wenger’s men will have to settle again for a likely place in the top four.
“I am a professional who has given 19 years to this club,” Wenger said.
“I have to accept the judgement of people. The only thing I don’t doubt is my sincere commitment to the club. After that I am sorry if I cannot keep 100 per cent happy.
“Maybe it is as well because we have been remarkably consistent. This season was a bit special because we were in a position for a long time where our fans believed we could win the league.
“We didn’t and that’s why I think it’s more disappointed love than real aggression.”
Some particularly abusive chants about Wenger were heard outside the stadium before kick-off but it was a small group of fans and those holding up posters during the game probably numbered in the low hundreds.
The overall impression was that Wenger’s supporters made up the vast majority and one fan loyal to the Frenchman held up a placard that read ‘Proud of Arsene, ashamed of “fans”‘.
“It was a bit of a strange atmosphere,” Wenger added.
“I think the fans were behind the team and I believe as well we did not have the stylish performance that could raise people off their seats.
“We had a serious, studied performance, a bit subdued at stages, but we wanted absolutely to win the game and we did it.”
Alexis Sanchez was also a surprise dissident as the Chilean stomped straight down the tunnel after being substituted in the second half.
“Was he happy? No,” Wenger said. “My job is to make decisions. There, again, to get 100 per cent happy is difficult.”
Defeat for Norwich leaves Alex Neil’s side 19th and two points adrift of safety, but still holding a game in hand over Newcastle in 17th.
Sunderland are a point ahead of the Canaries after they snatched a last-minute draw at Stoke.
“I feel confident,” Neil said. “We came to a real tough place today and I think the players showed as much commitment and quality as we can ask.
“Newcastle are a different kettle of fish because they’ve only two games left but I think it’s unlikely Sunderland will win their three remaining games.
“We just have to try and take as many points as we can.”